Clinch steps down at Lansdowne


Scarcely one game into this season's campaign and already the AIB League has seen its first coaching casualty. In a surprising move, Paul Clinch has resigned as coach of Lansdowne. Ostensibly, the reason cited by both Clinch and club is excessive work demands. The one-time Trinity, Lansdowne and Leinster centre is managing director of Orion Pharma, a pharmaceutical company.

The parting of the ways also seems amicable. The club have formally thanked Clinch for his services as both assistant and first team coach in the last two-and-abit seasons, praised his unpaid commitment to the club and wished him well in the future.

Under the combination of Donal Spring and Clinch, Lansdowne finished second in the AIL last season and won the Leinster Senior Cup, their best season since a near identical campaign in 1991.

Clinch, in turn, has wished Lansdowne "every success", and in particular mentioned his assistant coach and successor, for however long, Grant White. Clinch also said: "I am very disappointed to be leaving the club, but given family and business circumstances, I felt it would be better for me to resign."

Nevertheless, his work commit ments are presumably the same now as they were at the outset of the season. But in addition to a difference over the future direction of the club and the coaching make-up, apparently there was some disquiet within the club about recent performances prior to Monday night's key meeting between the club's executive and Clinch.

This disquiet came about despite Lansdowne reaching the final of both the Leinster Club championship and the Floodlit Cup - which they lost last week to Clontarf in what was only their second defeat of the season. Admittedly, Lansdowne did not begin their AIL campaign auspiciously, but they did win their one match, at home to Old Belvedere.

For the time being, the remainder of their management structure - director of rugby Mano Ryan, manager Mick Dawson and White - will coach the team, beginning with Saturday's trip to Blackrock. Once again Lansdowne will be without their influential captain, Kurt McQuilkin, and their midfield may be further disrupted by an injury Sean Hargan sustained playing for the Leinster under-20s.

An inexperienced Blackrock are still without one of their most important cogs, Nicky Assaf at scrum-half, where Andrew Boyd comes in for Dave Grennell. They have also made a couple of changes in the pack: Declan Kavanagh comes into the front row for Malcolm Cuffe and David Moore replaces Dave Hackett as blindside flanker.

The big match of the day looks like being the Dublin 6W derby between Terenure and St Mary's at Lakelands Park. Conor McGuinness returns for St Mary's in the only change from the team which recorded their opening-day victory over Blackrock, which brings their international quotient up to five.

The garlands being heaped upon the St Mary's contingent in the Irish win over Canada will merely fuel Terenure's desire, and they'll be itching for a game that in recent years has tended to go their way. Their team will be finalised later in the week, although they're hopeful of having Joe Kelly back after he had been sidelined for several weeks by concussion and a facial injury sustained in the Leinster semi-final against Clontarf.

In light of that incident, Terenure cited the Clontarf prop, Peter McQuillan, who has thus had his internal one-match ban extended to four weeks. So he misses Clontarf's trip to Young Munster on Saturday and is replaced by Ivan Cummins.

Brent Pope makes three other changes from the win over Old Crescent, with centre Robert Noble, scrum-half Shane McCarthy and flanker Ian Stewart replacing Matt Smith, Ronan O'Reilly and Pat Ward.

In a new aside to the AIL, two Limerick and Cork derbies originally scheduled for Sunday have been switched to Friday night. In a calculated attempt to make more at the gate, Old Crescent have conceded home advantage to allow their First Division tie with Shannon to go ahead at Thomond Park next Friday rather than Sunday, having given up on Saturday as a lost cause due to the televised counter-attraction of England against the All Blacks.

Crescent have doubts about prop Tom Stapleton, lock Darragh Kirby and winger Paul McDonagh, with Stapleton's ankle injury the biggest cause for concern. Both teams will finalise their lineups in the next day or two, as will Friday night's Division Two protagonists at Musgrave Park, Sunday's Well and UCC.

Ballymena welcome back Stanley McDowell for Saturday's trip to Old Belvedere and could have their other Ulster centre, Sheldon Coulter, available the following week for the visit of Blackrock, pending a run-out for the seconds this weekend.

Stephen Tormey returns on the left-wing at the expense of the unlucky Ronan Browne, despite the latter's strong run for the try of the night against Lansdowne, and Fergal O'Beirne comes in for Tom Murphy at blindside flanker. Encouragingly for the Anglesea Road club, both Peter McKenna and Barry Murphy have made further progress in recovering from injury and are on the bench.